Road to tourney should get smoother for Bulls

USF basketball fans haven’t had much to cheer about lately. But if you are looking for something to be optimistic about, you might find it in lesser opponents.

Just look at the next three games on USF’s schedule: at Southern Miss (1-6 Conference USA) and home against Tulane (2-6 C-USA) and St. Louis (3-4 C-USA).

I guess when you’re in last place, you have to find other things to cheer about.

“If you look at the records of our next three opponents,” USF coach Robert McCullum said, “on paper, each match-up will look like a game where perhaps our chances of winning will be more realistic.”

Wednesday’s game in Hattiesburg features the two worst teams in the conference. But the game has some meaning for the Bulls.

A win Wednesday could accomplish a lot, especially by keeping USF in the running for a spot in the conference tournament. C-USA’s bottom two teams are not given invites.

With a win, USF could confidently say it is not the worst team in C-USA, proof of which would be USF’s two-game winning streak against Southern Miss.

A win will also give McCullum his only winning record against a C-USA school.

On the other hand, Southern Miss doesn’t want to be the team that snaps USF’s six-game losing streak. The Golden Eagles are probably saying to themselves, “Are we really bad enough to lose to the Bulls?”

“I still don’t think we’ll finish last,” McCullum said. “I wouldn’t say it’s our motivation to not finish last. Our motivation is to make the conference tournament. It all depends on how you want to look at it. By saying you don’t want to finish last, the glass is kind of half empty. We think it’s half full.”

The black and gold jerseys of Southern Miss will be a welcoming sight. After all, the Golden Eagles were the only C-USA team USF managed to beat last season.

Behind Bradley Mosley’s 30 points and Gerrick Morris’ 9 shot blocks, the Bulls beat Southern Miss 68-60 on Feb. 13 at the Sun Dome. But those are two players USF can’t lean on this year.

The rest of this season might give the Bulls some opportunities to get some much-needed conference wins.

The combined conference record of USF’s final nine opponents is under .500. Take away Louisville (6-1), DePaul (5-2) and Charlotte (5-2), and the other six teams are a combined 14-30 in the conference.

The problem is, all but Southern Miss still have better conference records than the Bulls.